A wacky inter-resort event promotes employee camaraderie and cutthroat competition.
It’s not often that the hardworking “front line” of Park City’s ski resorts receives much attention. But our chairlift operators are essential to the success of the season here, as they smile through the missed powder days, the dropped gear, the crying children, and the bitter cold. With annual skier visits totaling about two million among the three Wasatch “backside” ski areas—Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley, and Canyons—if each person rides a lift 10 to 15 times, lifties here experience up to 30 million interactions with skiers and riders each season. That’s a lot of customer service responsibility.
Thankfully, to release the tension, there’s the Wasatch Backside Lifty Invitational. The event, now in its fourth year, conjures some fierce rivalry among employees at the three resorts.
“Lifties often feel that they aren’t respected or their job doesn’t mean anything,” says Jeff Marzka, PCMR’s lift operations manager. “But they take the brunt of everyone else’s bad day. This event is to recognize them for their hard work and to show the community that we can have fun.”
The contest spans 12 events that emphasize skills the lift crews use every day—but with wacky twists. There’s a Gear Return Relay, as well as a Lost & Found Mound, where teams dig through piles of snow to find buried items. The Ski Pole Spin Relay has teams put their foreheads on the grip, spin around till they’re dizzy, and then run through slalom gates.
The competition takes place at the end of March, just when employee burnout tends to be at its worst. And thanks to ski industry sponsors, there’s money for prizes, an awards party, and future college scholarships in hospitality or resort management.
There’s even talk of the Backside taking on neighboring resorts as the event grows. For now, however, the WBLI will continue to focus on giving our unsung Park City employees a lift.